Washburn University. Fall Semester 2014 Topeka/Kansas/USA. Andrea Egger

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1 Washburn University Fall Semester 2014 Topeka/Kansas/USA Andrea Egger I started my exchange semester on August 8 th 2014, after I got my Visa and after months of preparation. I took my flight from Salzburg Airport to Kansas City and had two stopovers in Berlin and Chicago. For the pickup at the airport the International House offered a free shuttle, which was very convenient. I arrived at Washburn about 9 days before my semester started because the international students needed to attend the orientations week. During this week, there were a lot of different welcome dinners and events which were really fun. In this week, I already made some friendships and got to know a lot of American people. Most of the events were organized from the International House. The staff of the International House was always here when I had questions. Before you start your exchange semester, you can sign up for the Washburn-Buddy and for the Topeka Friendship Network (TFN) on the homepage of Washburn. I did both and this is a good possibility to build relationships to American people. The first days in Topeka were really confusing for me and there were so many new people. It was really hard for me to go on my own to a different country on a different continent where I didn t know anybody. Before I went to America, I was always afraid that I don t find friends in Topeka. But this wasn t the case when I left Topeka after my semester it was so hard for

2 me to say goodbye. My first weeks in Topeka were really exciting, although Topeka is not really exciting. It has approximately the same size as Klagenfurt and a lot of different restaurants and just one shopping mall. It s very hard to get around without a car and I always needed to ask people for rides, since the public transportation is really bad there. A lot of my friends often asked me if I need a ride or if I want to shop anything. I was really amazed when I realized who big the distances are in America, you can never compare this to Austria. If you have no car in America, you are lost. I lived on Campus in the Washburn Village, in a 2 person/ 2 bedrooms apartment. My suitemate was another exchange student from Finland and it was nice living with her. I always wanted to have a separate bedroom, it costs more but in my opinion it s worth it. You spend so much time with other people that you sometimes just need time for your own. In my room I had a dresser, a desk with chair, a bed and a closet. The size of the room was ok for me and I lived on the second floor. I would recommend living in the Village since the apartments are really big and they also have a kitchen. There are different sizes of these apartments and when you apply for one, you can choose between 2 Person, 4 or 8 Person Apartments. When you live on Campus, you also need to have a meal plan. I took and would recommend the smaller meal plan which is cheaper and enough if you are living in the Village. In the morning and evening I ate at my dorm and I just had lunch in the cafeteria. This was convenient, because the Village is more far away from the cafeteria than the other accommodations. If you are running out of money for the meal plan, you can always put extra cash on your card. In my listing at the end of my report I will share a table of my expenses. The classes which I took at Washburn University were great. They were pretty small since the college only has about 7000 students. This is nice, so it s much easier to build contact to teachers. In my first weeks I asked them so many questions and they were always here to help me. I took 4 classes and with taking this amount of classes you are described as a fulltime student. The US-credits system is different from our ECTS-system and I got 3 credits per class which are 6 ECTS. So if you are taking 4 classes, you have much more to do for each class. My major in Klagenfurt is Media and Communications and at Washburn I took the classes Interpersonal Communication, Methods of Social Research, Introduction to Mass Media and Public Speaking. I had a lot to do for each class since these classes where at least twice a week. Studying at Washburn is more like high school life, you need to do homework every day and follow the guidelines. This seems to be very strict but it was a really good education which I got there. The teachers are really nice and motivated and it is always easy to get good grades if

3 they see that you work hard. The first weeks were a bit hard for me because everything was in English, but you are getting used to it so fast. When you are taking classes you always have to buy the books which are mandatory for the classes. I had to buy one or two books for each class and I bought some on Amazon and some in the bookstore of the university. It s cheaper to order them from Amazon because in the bookstore they are more expensive. I already needed my books in the first weeks, so I had to buy them in the bookstore because it took so long to get them from Amazon. I spent almost 250 Dollars on books. You can also buy used books and save money, I did this too. The registration for the classes was before my exchange semester started. The International House sent me a lot of information and what I have to consider, this was very helpful. Before you decide which classes you are going to take, you should always talk with your home university if they can credit these classes in your curriculum of your major. Some universities also require the TOEFL test, but Washburn didn t require it for one-semester exchange students from Europe. When you are doing a semester abroad, you also need a health insurance. You can bring your insurance and fill out a waiver form before going there or you can get the health insurance directly from Washburn. I got the health insurance from Washburn for one-semester exchange students. You get all other information on the Website of Washburn and the International House sends you a lot of information with tasks you need to do before you arrive there. Before you start your exchange semester, you also need to apply for your Visa. I would recommend that you do that early enough, since paperwork can require a lot of time. When you apply for your J1-Visa, you need to apply online at the American embassy website and you also need to upload a biometric picture. Then you need to make an appointment for your interview, you can do this online on the website or call them. I would do it online because when I called them, I was always in the waiting loop and had to pay per minute. When I went to Vienna, I made sure that I have everything with me, like my J1-Visa document and my passport. On the website, the American embassy provides a list of things which you should take with you at your interview. The interview itself just took a few minutes and a few days later my Visa was already in my mailbox. I would recommend doing the application process as soon as possible; this was the most time-involved work of all preparations. The one-semester J1 Visa for exchange students gives you the chance to travel because you can go to the U.S. already a few weeks before your semester and stay in the U.S. until 4 weeks after your exchange semester ended.

4 When you start packing, also start early. I didn t take things like blankets or dishes with me. You can buy all of those things in your first days in Topeka at Walmart. Walmart has cheap prices and it is hard to pack the right way for 4 months. If I would do it a second time, I wouldn t take so many clothes with me anymore. You can buy really cheap clothes in America and all other things you need has Walmart, Dillons or other big stores. I flew with Air Berlin and was allowed to take one big luggage with 23 kilogram and two other small ones with me. 23 kg seems a lot but it isn t. When I travelled home again, I left all of the things I brought from Austria to America and just brought my American stuff back home to Austria. I would recommend that you apply for scholarships as soon as you get your acceptance. Most of them have deadlines and I got the Joint study scholarship of my home university, the scholarship from Kärntner Sparkasse and one of Land Kärnten. When you are doing an exchange semester, you should always take the chance and travel as much as you can. I did this, although I spent a lot of money. I did my exchange semester in fall, not in spring. This was a better choice because there are more breaks in between. In fall break which was in October, 5 other girls and I travelled to Chicago for 4 days. We took the Greyhound bus, which was really cheap. For going to Chicago and back, we paid only around 70 Dollars. Flight tickets are much more expensive, but it would just take 1 hour to go from Kansas City to Chicago. The bus tour to Chicago took around 8 hours from Topeka. We did a lot of sightseeing in Chicago and had a great time there. We stayed downtown in a hostel. I would do this again since it is really cheap to stay in hostels where you share a room with other people. We were 6 internationals and shared a room together, for a few days it is ok. Staying in hotels is much more expensive in big cities and I wouldn t recommend that because you need your money for your activities. In Thanksgiving break, I travelled with my TFN-host family and 3 other students to Colorado. On the way there, we had a Thanksgiving dinner with the parents of my host dad in Great Bend, which is a small town in the Wild West of Kansas. In Colorado we explored the Rocky Mountains and took the train to the top of Pikes Peak, a mountain which is meters high. It was amazing and we had a beautiful view. I was already the end of November and so it was pretty cold and windy, we only stayed on hour on the top. Then we also visited the cities Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs and Denver and spent some time there. After my semester on December 11 th, a group of us travelled to Los Angeles and explored the West Coast. We also went to some beaches and it was still warm there, we had around 22 degrees in December. After

5 a few days there we took a flight to Las Vegas to spent 3 days there. We visited 2 amazing shows and explored the city. We had an awesome time there. After the last week of travelling, I stayed one last night in Topeka at my host family. On the next day, the drove me to the Kansas City Airport to say Goodbye. I would definitely recommend signing up for the TFN-host families. You can learn a lot of the American culture and became part of it. I learned in this months a lot and yes, there are times where I had to struggle with cultural differences. I just got homesick once; the time was going too fast. Most of the time, I enjoyed it and spent a lot of time with other people from different cultures. With doing this exchange semester, I got more self-confident and improved my English skills. You get skills which can help you in your future jobs. I got friends all over the world and I am still in contact with them. I m sure that I will go back to America as soon as possible to visit my host family and friends. Although I had to spend a lot of money, I would do it again. It was an awesome experience and I ll never regret my decision. Costs Flights: Kansas City and back from Kansas City to Salzburg Room on Campus (2.990$) Meal Plan 546 (665$) Books 205 (250$) Health Insurance (from Washburn) for (450$) semester Sevis Fee J1-Visa 147 (180$) VISA 131 (160$) Other things/groceries/living things for 4 ~1000 (1.217$) months Travelling and other activities ~3600 (4.382$) Total ~10.000

6 Scholarships Joint Study Land Kärnten 500 Kärntner Sparkasse 270 Total If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me! My is:

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